“Choice overload.” (04/23/17)

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When you are faced with too many choices you can become overwhelmed. You encounter “choice overload.” There are so many options that you get mentally fatigued and then either make an unwise choice or end up making no choice at all.

For instance, you go to the grocery store and there are 38 types of spaghetti sauce. Chunky with meat, Creamy without meat, Creamy with meat and onions, Chunky with mushrooms, Creamy without mushrooms, Creamy with chunky mushrooms. Who gives a fuck? You could stand there for an hour considering all of the ingredients, styles, price per ounce and the brands. Having so many choices uses up your valuable time standing there trying to decide. Often, if there are too many choices you just give up and don’t make any choice. Hey, it’s just spaghetti sauce so grab one and if you don’t like it then don’t buy it again.

Here’s another example. You go to Wal-Mart to look for a new TV. There are 100 TVs on display. Which one do you choose? Plus, there are a zillion different options, features, sizes and prices. Some stream, some don’t, some have built-in Blue Ray players, some don’t. Some have speakers but don’t stream, some stream but require a sound bar or surround sound system. I’ve seen families get into arguments over which TV to buy because of all the different features. (Is a TV really worth arguing about?) You may know exactly what features you want but there are still 20 of those models to choose from. You might end up spending more money than you had planned or you just get tired of thinking about it and buy the one that’s on sale. Or you might just say “fuck it” and buy nothing.

Getting sober can be just like that. There are a lot of choices to make and once you start thinking about all of your options you may end up doing nothing. Choice overload can really mess with your decision on sobriety. “Should I follow a program? Do I need to go to AA? Are there alternative programs? Which one should I follow? Should I go to rehab? Do I need medication? Do I need counseling? Do I even need to quit? Maybe I can just moderate? Maybe I’ll just have another drink and think about it?” Then you sit there and do nothing at all.

Then once you are sober there’s a different kind of choice overload. “Should I go out with my friends? Maybe I’ll meet them and leave early or should I tell them I’m busy? Maybe I shouldn’t go out at all? Maybe I should attend a meeting? Should I stay home and read? Should I stay home and work on some project or something productive. Maybe I should call a friend and ask them what they think I should do?”

You don’t have to let “choice overload” create anxiety and consume your valuable time. I’m going to offer some suggestions on how to cope with choice overload. I won’t offer too many choices; just a few suggestions on how to approach making decisions. Employing any one (or all) of these strategies will help cut down the number of choices that fall within a decision making category. There are 3 basic concepts: Filtering, setting limits and self-forgiveness.

Filtering. Make lists and know what you don’t want. When you know what you don’t want you can focus on the features and items that are appealing to your needs or wants. This can remove more than half of all the choices presented to you. Knowing what you don’t want is a definite time saver and it can help stave off feelings of second-guessing after you’ve made a decision. Lists help you focus on what you need and what you can avoid. Planning some of your meals ahead and then making a grocery lists will save you time and money. Daily project or chore “to do” lists will keep you focused on what you feel needs to get done and you’ll use your own time more efficiently.

Creating lists helps you filter out the items you don’t want. Knowing what I don’t want has been my best time and money saving system. I always consider what I don’t want in almost every category of my life. I use the “don’t want” philosophy when I’m considering buying a new product or food. I use that thought system when I’m deciding what type of job or career field to pursue. I use that thought system when it comes to nurturing friendships or relationships. I’ve been using the “don’t want” philosophy to make the best out of my sobriety.

By knowing what you don’t want you can zero in on what you DO want. This will automatically lower the amount of choices within a decision and help with choice overload.

Setting limits. Set size, amount, quantity or financial limits. So let’s say that you need or want a new TV but you can’t afford more than $300 (or don’t want to spend more than $300), then limit yourself to choosing from within that price range. I understand that isn’t always that easy. As I said earlier, you go to Wal-Mart to buy a TV and there’re 100 of them on display!  Decide BEFORE you go there how much you can afford to spend, what size will accommodate your area and what features aren’t necessary. Knowing that you don’t want or need certain features may allow you to buy a larger TV for less money.

Grocery lists help you set limits on how much food to buy. It’s a shame to waste your own money buying food that you’ll never eat or buying so much of something that you throw half of it away. Set your own size and quantity limits, based on your own consumption or usage history.

Setting financial limits will automatically narrow down your choices on most products.

Forgive yourself. This is a big one. If you happen to make an unwise choice (or what you feel was a wrong choice), forgive yourself and make a different choice. Try to learn what wasn’t right so you don’t repeat the same error. But absolutely forgive yourself and move on. You probably made a choice based on the data or knowledge that you had at the time. So, at the time, you made the best choice. If it didn’t turn out well, forgive yourself and move on.

Forgiving yourself may not help with “choice overload” but it will allow you to feel more comfortable about making future choices. You can make a decision and if it turns out to be a poor decision, you know that you’ll be able to forgive yourself. Even if a poor decision comes with unhappy consequences, forgive yourself and try not to repeat the same error.

Sometimes not making a choice is the best decision. Consciously saying, “I’m not going to make a choice right now” is a decision in itself. Maybe new knowledge will come to light or you may discover you actually can live without the item you thought you absolutely had to have.

Some choices are very important and will change your life; some won’t make any difference whatsoever. You’re smart enough to determine what the important choices in life are. Those are the one’s that you might want to spend some time to compile research on or think about before making a decision. Don’t give all choices and decisions the same respect. For small stuff, just make a choice and move on.

Regardless of whether it’s a BIG decision or a little decision, you still have to make a choice. Make your choice and be willing to adjust or adapt as you go along. Be willing to forgive yourself if you make a bad choice. And who’s to say it was a bad choice? Maybe it was a good choice but it didn’t turn out well or didn’t turn out as you had planned or hoped for?

Don’t let “choice overload” mire you into wasting time. Your time and your life are far too valuable. Make a choice. Pick a system, plan or program and then go with it. You can always adapt, adjust or change later.

These are my own opinions and observations. Please, think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my blog, podcasts and website. I invite you to pick up one of my books: You can find my books in paperback, eBook or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. My books and audiobooks are available through Amazon, Apple, all sorts of places. I put my blog, podcasts and website out for people to access FREE of charge. I pay for all of this with my own personal funds. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what this all costs me. I am very appreciative that a few people have signed up to make a $5 a month donation. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

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